Florida agency pushing $1.5 billion trash deal without getting competing bids

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Broward County Commissioners are either a bit too complacent to get competitive bids on the county’s massive trash contract, or they don’t understand how competition works. Either way, it’s not a good development for county residents.

At issue is a proposed new trash disposal contract that’s being recommended by the county for the 26 cities in South Florida that banded together in 1986 and formed the Broward Solid Waste Disposal District.  The commission is pushing a pre-negotiated long-term deal with the incumbent trash hauler, Wheelabrator, a subsidiary of Waste Management.

The $1.5 billion deal would start in 2013 and cover a period of at least ten years, and is contingent on a majority of the cities in the coalition agreeing to it. Hoping to convince the many financially-challenged cities to make an early decision and forgo the opportunity to bid the work out to competitors, Wheelabrator is offering up-front bonuses to those municipalities who sign up before Dec. 31.

While 13 cities have already agreed to the new deal, several others aren’t so sure that it makes sense to act so quickly. Officials in Oakland Park think that they should be able to save at least a half-million dollars per year if they bid it out to the several other companies that have expressed interest in handling the work. The city’s head administrator, John Stunson, also questioned the legality of the upfront cash payment.

“I’m outraged that 20 years have gone by without a bid, and they want to do it again for another 10 years? And another 10 years after that? You tell me how that’s in the best interest of the residents of Broward County,” said Oakland Park Vice Mayor Suzanne Boisvenue.

The city of Miramar agrees, even if it means turning down a $725,000 signing bonus. “This is a very rare opportunity for us to test the free market for solid waste disposal service that could return greater benefits to the city,” said Miramar Public Works Director Thomas Good.

The head of the Resource Recovery Board, the governing body of the BSWDD, and the party responsible for the no-bid deal, is not happy with the potential defection of some of the cities interested in at least looking into other options to save money. RRB Executive Director Ron Greenstein summed it up by saying “We are far cheaper than anyone else because of our economies of scale.”

If that’s the case, one might question the need for signing a new contract over two years in advance, and the requirement to close the deal by year’s end. And then there’s those bonuses.

The Miami Herald

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